Monday, September 30, 2013

Guest Blog: Single Mom Series, Ashlea's Story

Having so many single mom’s in my life, I was asked by a Twitter reader to do a highlight on the inspiring stories of single mom’s by my friend Ashela. The answers were so good and thorough that I decide each will get her own blog this week. I think we need to listen to them and try to help them all we can by giving support and encouragement.

How many kids do you have? How long have you been a single mom? I have boy /girl twins who are almost eight. I legally separated from their dad four years ago and have been legally divorced for three years.

What is the hardest thing you face as a single mom? Reconciling “single” and “mom”. I feel many times like these are two different lives that I lead and they each have their own set of rules and demands and responsibilities. Usually I’m not Single Ashlea and Mom Ashlea at the same time.

How do you make time for yourself ? I am very lucky in that their dad takes them at regular intervals. But during those times when we go long stretches, me time is found late in the evenings. And my kids are very used to me telling them that I need 30 minutes to myself. But yes, sometimes I just want to be able to take a shower alone.

What do you feel people could work on in their reaction to you being a single mom ? My favorite line is “oh, I wish I could do whatever I wanted all the time.” Really? The other one I frequently get is “Must be nice not having to deal with a man every day.” Again, really? It’s not all fun and games and many times having that extra set of hands or ears or the reassurance would be so nice.

Why do you think the world judges single mom’s instead of supporting them? I think, in my case, there is a societal stigma about divorce. In some cases this is religious in nature, but I think many people fear that divorce is something that can happen to them and instead of facing their insecurity in their own life, the choose to judge my decisions. Unfortunately, women are the absolute worst at bringing each other down instead of up and most of the judgment I get about my lifestyle comes from other women.

If there is one thing you wanted people to be aware of what would it be? How can others be a better support system and encouragement? I think we all need to let mothers off the hook. I think we all do what we can to simply get through. And no I didn’t nurse,didn't make my own baby food, but I do the best I can with the skills I have. I believe this to be the case with most moms. We need to support moms being moms in whatever why they are instead of saying “you should…”

What is your biggest discouragement in parenting solely? How do you encourage yourself to get through those times? Parenting is hard. Really hard. And sometimes yes, it gets overwhelming doing it on your own. We’re told by society that the best thing we can do is be a parent. And sometimes it’s the world’s most thankless job. I miss the other person to bounce things off of, the sanity check. But when things get really bad (like when I haven’t had an adult conversation in 5 days), I watch my kids sleep or listen to them talk to each other and I realize that I can’t mess them up that bad if I just try to do what I can and stop trying to do what I can’t. They need to see a competent, hard working mom, not a mom trying to be someone she isn’t.

What is the best thing about being a single mom? Share the positives you have experienced. Being a single mom has allowed me to add the words “why not?” into my vocabulary. I have had the opportunity to figure out who I am as a person, independently. And that’s something I otherwise would not have done. I have learned that I CAN do things I would have never tried before. And my kids can do them too. Recently, I have started rock climbing and stand up paddle boarding. And so have my kids. I would have never done that before and I would have never though my 7 year olds could do it either. But why not? It’s astounding to see what I can do and what they can achieve. And I think my kids seeing me grow and learn and try new things is the best thing I can do for them.

I would like to point out a couple of important things. First, I think a lot of this crosses into single parent, not just single mom. But as this blog is specifically about single moms I have used that.  In my case, I became a single mom because of a divorce but other reasons for being a single mom are being widowed or choosing to have a child out of wedlock. My divorce was an agonizing decision for me and part of that was the fear of the stigma that is attached to single moms. Women don’t support each other enough and I lost every single female friend I had during my divorce. Reconciling my single life with my mom life is very difficult for me. My kids are my center. I know every decision I make impacts them. And as I have primary custody of them, my routines center around them. I go to the gym or volunteer during their school hours, I choose not to work because I feel it is important to be home with them. But when they go to their dad’s that center is gone. I am then “free” to do whatever I want. What I notice is that because my routines are disrupted, I tend to feel extremely unsettled during those times. Advice I get is “oh, just go get a job.” Like it’s that easy.  Where am I going to find a job that is available just when their dad has them or just when they are at school? “just get married again”. Ok, I don’t even want to get into how stupid that one is. “Just find stuff to stay busy” When you’re used to having your day be taken up with carpool and kids, “finding stuff” isn’t that easy. “I’d love to be able to have a day to read a book.” Yes, that’s a great benefit, but I only need that so often.  People don’t get it and they don’t think about what they say to single parents. There is no easy solution to the feast or famine lifestyle of being a single person and a mom person.

Beyond the parenting issues I discussed above, the single piece is very complicated. I had to learn how to date again, how to do things alone, how to be alone without being lonely. It has been a long, emotional process. As I said, I lost every friend I had. Some of them I lost because they were only friends because of the life I led before. But losing my best friend was a really deep blow. She couldn’t walk in my shoes and I couldn’t live the same life I led before. My life is so vastly different that even my best friend and I couldn’t keep it together. I don’t blame her. I’ve changed as was dictated by my changing life and she didn’t need to make the same changes in hers.

I will say that being a single mom has been really great for me in terms of personal growth. I am able to show my kids an independent, strong, stable (most of the time) woman who faces the good times and the bad with an ever growing skill set. Sometimes I fail and many times it’s hard. But I get out of the bed every morning and face the day. And I do it on my own terms and on my own two feet. That is a great role model for my daughter because she learns that women really can do things alone. It’s a great role model for my son because he sees that women are to be respected, that women are strong, and that women can have fun. And for both of them I hope my life teaches them to embrace things outside social programming. I hope they are better able to evaluate what they want in their lives instead of only accepting what our society tells them they should want.

Thank you Ashlea for the idea and for writing a great piece. I appreciate your honest answers and insight.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Birthday Note from My Mom

Happy Birthday to my beautiful talented daughter #2. Julie 37 years ago you were born on a stormy rainy night. You were in such a hurry to get here my Lamazae coach had to catch you, the doctor was still washing up.!!

You are such a strong woman, a woman of great faith, a woman full of love for her family and friends. A woman full of passion, passionate for those things she believes in.

You have many qualities that you have passed on to your children which will make them strong individuals and passionate for what they believe in.

Everyone in your life benefits from knowing you and being with you. You never know a stranger, much like my mom. She could talk to anyone anyplace HA HA.

God Bless you on this day, may many happy things happen to you today sweet heart.

Love MOM

Monday, September 9, 2013

Goodbye 36, Hello 37

I usually write this on September 10, but some events this morning have lead me to write this today.

Every year, I fight the birthday blues. Since 9/11/01 I have struggled with this battle of depression and funk from August to September. Two years, I have done really well and learned some coping tools to help me fight the funk. It is the sole reason I write ''Music that Takes Me Back'' series on this blog, it is a way of keeping my focus.

My new goal in striving to be vulnerable on this blog and transparent, I will honestly share that this year I have struggled fighting that funk. I have been in introspective mode for over a month and let a lot of really minor things eat at me. There have been a couple of major things as well that led me to my usual, '' I hate my birthday and EVERY year something bad happens.'' That isn't true but in my mind that is where I go. Thankfully with the help of my friend's Joel and Kay, I was on a great track of positive thinking until last Friday. We got some news about our new insurance payments and Marty's pay that really just threw me into a pit of wallow, worry and sadness.

My true calling in life is serving others and loving others. This year my service of others has called me into a difficult friendship that has challenged me. I committed to praying for a friend and recently that friend was injured severely and that has left me pretty devastated. I really haven't been able to share that due to respect for privacy and anonymity. It has been a burdened carried in silence. I have also seen other friends struggling with parents falling ill, family struggles, health issues and many other issues. I have been bearing a lot of burdens, I am strong and can handle it, I just sometimes need to share that I need lifting up too.

This year saw us accomplish a major goal of almost twenty years, we moved out of California and started a new adventure. Things have gone very well with virtually no setbacks. Really the only setback has been Elizabeth's struggle to make friends and this recent financial blow. Other than that, it has gone amazingly well for us.

Here is what I learned from my self assessment of the last several months:

I have learned that I over react, sometimes in a really ugly way and really am trying to work on that. I am a bit like Steve Martin in Father of the Bride. I think Marty was about ready to throw me out of the truck on the way to work this morning.

I worry far to much about the little things, I already knew this but it has been maginified recently and I am working on not sweating the small stuff. I remember in the not so distant future thinking Marty was going to die and living in such a dark place. Life is good everyday we are alive! Our lives have been so much worse and I have always overcome. I have overcome more in my life than some overcome in an entire lifetime, I am a testimony to resilience and need to show that to others.

Being independent is a good thing but sometimes you need to lean on others. I have become so used to vaulting others secrets and burdens that I started not sharing my own. So many have heavy weight to carry, that I don't want to burden anyone else. So I just clammed up and that isn't good. I recently have started confiding in more and being completely transparent with a few friends.

I have let others opinions and thoughts about my move eat away at me. Instead of not worrying, I have taken those negative thoughts on as my own burden. I cannot fix it for them or make it better, I just have to know they will deal with it in their own time

This morning, I started the day crying. I just was deep in the funk and dreading this week. I let the little things add up and just contributed it to my annual birthday ''curse'' and Marty was done with it. He and Andrea bear the brunt of this every year and they both try their best to snap me out of it and I pretty much let them down.

I heard this song in the car this morning, reminding me I am an ''Overcomer'' and have overcome so many huge obstacles in life.

I was working on positive thinking when I opened my Twitter and saw this:

A young boy Conner's age named Luke did that for me. It was such a sweet gesture from not only Luke but my all time favorite cyclist Jens.  It made me smile, forget and let go, because if Jens Voigt says then it is so. He is one of the most inspiring forty year old's I know and truly someone who buries himself for others expecting nothing in return for himself. He is a happy go lucky guy and truly someone I look up to. It was an instant reminder of who I want to be and who I really am. Two men doing something nice for me for no reason at all. It was one of those moments that I reaped and was blessed.

Forty is starting to loom closer and I have set some big goals for myself to achieve. It is a few years off but I am telling you to keep myself accountable:

Stop worrying about what others think about me. Just be myself and if someone doesn't like it, then move on and forward. If someone doesn't like what I say or do, that is their problem not my problem.

Stop living in introspection and putting life into action

Get these last 70lbs off for good.

Go back to school. I think that I have finally decided that I want to be a nurse midwife and go back to working in labor and delivery at the very least. This is a long term goal that will take several years to accomplish but next year, I am going to start the foundations.

I have two books to write and I need to write them. Instead of putting it off, I am just going to start doing it. I have stories that need to be told and shared with many people. This blog is a great start but I want to put it in print. We can all see God doing something with the crazy things that happen to me in life and I want to share that with the world...well I already do that don't I?

So here is to making 37 the working year, working for these goals, working with Marty and the kids toward building our future in Tennessee. Focusing on the positive and eliminating the negative.

Thanks to everyone who has been helping me through the past month and letting me lean on them while I have been working it out. We all fall down sometimes and with the help of our friends we get up again! Here is to a great year.

One reason I write the birthday blog series is because I believe in the power of building others up and lifting others up. I love my friends and family, I want the world to know the wonderful people in my life and share them. Making people feel good and important is huge, there is so much power in kindness and treating others as you want to be treated yourself. That came back to me this morning, always so good to have it come back and remind me to keep going forward with that mission in life. My outlook is: ''This life is not about me, it is about self sacrifice and serving God through loving others''

Friday, September 6, 2013

Happy Birthday Friend Series: Happy Birthday My Tam!

In 2002, we took our son Conner to an AWANA program at a neighborhood church.  He was four years old and loved it, taking him to that program led us to many life long friendships. He started coming home and talking about a little girl named Olivia. He had made friends with her and just loved talking about her. Finally one week, I went to pick him up and asked who the little girls parents were and that led me to my dear Tam.

Tammy is Olivia's mom, we started talking about the kids sweet little friendship and making friendly conversation each week. The same time Marty was in the police academy, her husband Matt was in a similar academy. Both these jobs were life changing for our families, very much needed, so we started praying for each other weekly.

Conner, Olivia and Elizabeth circa 2005

At the same time in 2004, we were both facing really difficult extended family situations. Tam and I, both have wonderful husband's and children. We both were struggling with different extended family issues but could understand the trial each faced. We formed a bond and we helped each other through some really difficult times over the phone. Weekly we would have hour long phone conversations talking it out and praying each other through. I truly can say, without a doubt Tammy helped me change my life and survive some really difficult times and choices.

We both made it through and God blessed both our families with answered prayers numerous times over. Both our husband's got jobs working at different agencies right next door to each other. The carpooled together, we all went to church together and we even vacationed together once. Conner adored their son Zach and Olivia, Elizabeth did too.

Conner, E and Liv at Disneyland

Family vacation Disneyland 2005

When my friends from around the world would come to visit, we would take them to meet Matt and Tam. Last summer, they made a new friend from France in my friend Fanette. They had us over for their annual fourth of July and invited her along. How amazing to have my friends meet up and not only that, now they are friends too!

The day we found out Marty was sick was an AWANA night. Matt and Tammy anxiously awaited the news with us. They went through the really dark, hard things nobody else saw. They were at the hospital when Marty would pass out and be taken by ambulance. Matt watched Marty at work, Tam talked to me for hours on end listening ad nauseam to my struggles. The day we got the call, they were the first phone call we made and they rejoiced with us. They drove up to see us at Stanford and bring us that needed piece of home. In turn, we have been through many crisises with them and a few health scares, I loved being able to have Zach and Liv come stay with me and be like a crazy aunt to them.

Oscar loves Liv

Max loves Zach

They live on a beautiful little ranch, Tammy is amazing at taking things and turning them into treasure. She has one of the most elegantly decorated homes of anyone I know. God blessed her to live in her grandparents home and make it her own. One of our many answered prayers throughout the years. They host lovely parties and bbq's for friends and family. We love going out  to their little piece of heaven and enjoying the tranquility of their home.

Together, our families have really experienced it all. Matt and Tam have been our rocks, they have seen us through better, worse, sickness and health. Truly one of the hardest choices we made in moving was leaving this family behind.  We wanted to bring them with us! We had made our own little extended family but life has taken us on different journeys and now we are apart. I know it has been so hard for Tam and right now, she hasn't been wanting to talk to me. I understand Tam and I know in time, you will want to talk again. 

Our going away bbq at Matt and Tammy's

Tam, you are my first sister of the heart. You were the one who made me realize I could have a sister outside of blood. You have been there for me through thick and thin,  I am so grateful for your love and support, I miss our weekly chats and hope we can start them again soon. No matter how far I go, I will always need you and love you. I hope you have a wonderful day, I know Matt will give you a wonderful birthday and I will have him hug you for me too. I miss you so much it hurts and know you're hurting too. We will survive like we always do. Your birthday came on a perfect day, a reminder from God that we always overcome and everything always turns out okay. We have seen it all and be blessed many times over. Have a happy birthday, I love you, Jules